Non-political drivers of violence (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1135)

This reports considers factors such as climate change, urbanisation, demographic pressures, organised crime and technology



Please identify and summarise recent literature on non-political drivers of violence. Any insights on middle-income country fragility/conflict would be particularly useful.

Key findings

A growing body of literature looks at non-political drivers of violence. These, often inter-related factors, include:

  • Climate change and environmental degradation: There is limited evidence to suggest that there is a causal link between climate change and environmental degradation and violence. However, climate change can exacerbate existing fragile situations leading to outbreaks of violence.
  • Urbanisation: Many studies suggest that there is a link between urbanisation and violence. However, the extent of this connection has not been established, as there are many rapidly growing cities, like Tokyo, Japan, that have very low levels of crime and violence.
  • Demographic pressures: Youth bulges are often associated with increases in violence and conflict. However, population growth alone does not lead to violence and conflict. Rather, associated pressures on health and social services, as well as a lack of opportunities for young people can lead to outbreaks of violence.
  • Organised crime: In some countries organised crime is responsible for more violent deaths than civil conflict. Organised crime is therefore more directly linked to violence than the other factors discussed in this paper. Political drivers of violence and organised crime sometimes overlap, as a number of rebel groups also engage in criminal activity.
  • Technology: While new technology is generally associated with positive impacts in fragile states, access to the internet and social media can also lead to violence by making information available that fuels discontent among disaffected citizens. This effect was witnessed during the Arab Spring. However, access to technology alone does not lead to violence, rather it can exacerbate existing political and economic drivers of violence.


Strachan, A. Non-political drivers of violence (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1135). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2014) 9 pp.

Non-political drivers of violence (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1135)

Published 1 January 2014